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Minerals matter

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Boron, chromium and selenium help keep your teeth, bones and blood healthy. So they should all be part of your daily diet

NEW DELHI :

Like vitamins, minerals too play a role in keeping us healthy and disease-free. There are two types of minerals: macro minerals, which are required in a larger amount, and trace minerals (micro minerals), which we need in small amounts. Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and chloride are macro minerals while boron, zinc and copper are micro minerals.

Both are vital for body functions and processes. While our bodies may need about 400mg of calcium a day, we need only about 10mg of zinc in a day, and less than 5mg of boron.

A good way to ensure sufficient intake of minerals is, of course, to consume fewer processed foods and more natural foods. Processing methods and shipping produce over long distances expose food to light, heat and air for a long time, taking away micronutrients. Gunjan Pannu, chief clinical dietitian at the Paras Bliss Hospital in Panchkula, Surpreet Grover, consultant nutritionist at the SRV Hospital in Mumbai, and Seema Singh, chief clinical nutritionist and head of department at the Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital in Vasant Kunj, Delhi, tell us more about minerals.

Boron

It helps in metabolizing minerals that aid bone development, such as calcium, magnesium and copper. It is also important for the synthesis of hormones, including oestrogen and testosterone.

Get it from: Apples, carrots, grapes, nuts, pears and whole grains.

Calcium

It helps form and maintain healthy teeth and bones, and is important for proper muscle contraction as well as transmission of messages through the nerves.

Get it from: Dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese), sesame seeds, figs and pak choi.

Chloride

It works with sodium to balance bodily fluids and help maintain the body’s pH balance. It helps make hydrochloric acid, a digestive enzyme responsible for breaking down proteins and absorbing minerals like magnesium and potassium.

Get it from: Most of the chloride in our diet comes from sodium chloride, or salt. Healthier sources of chloride include kelp (seaweed), olives, rye, tomatoes, lettuce and celery.

Chromium

It helps insulin to transport glucose to cells, where it is used for energy. This activity helps in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Chromium also helps in metabolizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and in curbing the craving for carbohydrates.

Get it from: Broccoli, potatoes, oranges, fish, eggs and nuts.

Copper

It helps the body make red blood cells and keeps nerve cells and the immune system healthy. It helps in the healing of wounds, is essential for strong bones and tissues, and is an important antioxidant. Copper-deficient diets lead to an increase in blood cholesterol levels because copper is necessary for the activity of an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase that brings down the cholesterol level.

Get it from: Sesame seeds, cashew nuts, spinach, asparagus, soy beans and shrimps.

Fluoride

This mineral is found in both teeth and bones. It helps prevent tooth decay by making the teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque caused by the bacteria and sugar in the food we eat. If there is already some damage to the teeth, like a cavity, fluoride helps strengthen the enamel by accumulating in the demineralized areas and remineralizing.

Get it from: Most people meet their fluoride needs through drinking water and from food made with fluoridated water—our water naturally has enough fluoride in it. We can also get some fluoride from walnuts, tea and cocoa powder.

Iron

It helps to transport oxygen throughout the body. It is also needed to make haemoglobin, which is important for the transport of oxygen in the blood. Iron also helps maintain healthy cells, skin, hair and nails. It boosts the immune system, production of amino acids, hormones, neurotransmitters and enzymes, which play a vital role in the production of new cells.

Get it from: There are two types of sources for iron: Haem (easily absorbed by the body) is found in foods like red meat, poultry and fish, and non-haem (which does not get absorbed as easily so is needed in larger quantities) is found in plant-based foods like cereals, vegetables and legumes.

Iodine

It is needed to make thyroid hormones, which control the metabolic rate. It also helps in healthy brain function, and in converting food into energy.

Get it from: Iodized salt, eggs, dairy and seafood.

Phosphorus

It is the most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It is important for healthy bones and teeth and is needed to make DNA.

Get it from: Almonds, milk, eggs, oats, tofu and fish.

Potassium

It helps maintain the body’s pH balance and regulate blood pressure. It is also vital for the storage of carbohydrates for use by muscles as fuel. The carbohydrates that we eat are readily broken down into glucose, to provide energy to the body, and used up immediately as fuel, or can be sent to the liver and muscles and stored as glycogen; potassium helps in this transfer.

Get it from: Bananas, potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, eggplant, tomatoes, parsley, cucumber, strawberries, avocados, apricots, pomegranates, orange juice, cauliflower, cabbage and tuna.

Magnesium

It supports the formation of proteins and fatty acids, and helps in the efficient functioning of the thyroid. It also assists more than 300 enzymes important for bodily functions and is a powerful antioxidant.

Get it from: Seafood, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and spinach.

Manganese

It is essential for brain and nerve function and helps the body form connective tissue and bones. It is also needed for the proper metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.

Get it from: Whole grains, beans, pumpkin seeds and tofu.

Molybdenum

It activates multiple enzymes in the body, some of which work like antioxidants while others speed up the breakdown of stored nutrients to release energy. It helps process toxins and aids digestion.

Get it from: Almonds, peanuts, barley, beets, liver, salmon, leafy greens and radish.

Selenium

It is necessary for healthy functioning of the reproductive system and the synthesis of DNA. An antioxidant, it provides protection from cancer.

Get it from: Fish, wholewheat bread, brown rice, mushrooms, and sesame, sunflower and chia seeds.

Sodium

It works with chloride to maintain bodily fluid balance. Its intake is important for regulating blood pressure. It is also vital for proper muscle contraction. But be careful: Consumption of too much sodium may elevate blood pressure.

Get it from: We get enough from table salt. Processed foods are overloaded with it.

Zinc

Zinc is needed for the body’s defence (immune) system to work properly, and for the healthy functioning of most hormones, including insulin (so it can help prevent diabetes). It helps in proper functioning of the liver and thyroid, and is important for reproductive growth. Its deficiency may lead to low sperm count in men.

Get it from: Liver, seafood, poultry, nuts, yogurt, spinach, broccoli, eggs, whole grains, tofu and legumes.

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